West Coast Treasure: Resources for Adventure, Discovery, & Wonder

I have just returned from a week long vacation in San Francisco with my family. The benefits of my children having a teacher for a mother is that our vacation will be a fun filled adventure filled with discovery, wonder, and learning.  Hence, our trip to the west coast included jam packed days for exploration and inquire about the world. Below are the places that we visited and the array of resources that all teachers and parents can utilize online or in person that encourages science inquiry and an interest in American history.

Muir Woods

Muir Woods – Muir Woods National Monument is a sanctuary of Redwoods and ecological treasure. The ginormous trees are breath taking with the tallest tree is Muir Woods over 250 feet. Some of these trees are over 1,000 years old. This destination offers scientific facts about the California Redwoods, the role of Fog and Fire, the anatomy of the trees, and the history of the National Parks Service that protects this forest.

California Museum of Science

California Academy of Sciences – This Museum in Golden Gate Park is an aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum. With hands on exhibits and virtual programs, the museum promotes science in both theory and everyday experiences. There is a host of programs and curriculum available online for educators.

de Young Museum of Fine Arts – Another great museum in Golden Gate Park, this art museum boasts a collection of Modern Art from around the world. The Marcus Garden of Enchantment is playful and mysterious and encourages people to explore its different pathways, structures, artworks, and natural features. Don’t forget to take the elevator to the top of the tower for a 360 degree view of all of San Francisco if you visit the museum. Online you can find an abundance of curriculum resources for educators covering teaching guides and lessons.


Alcatraz – My 10 year old son would tell you that this was the best part of the vacation, visiting the island and listening to the stories of those who experienced Alcatraz as guards, inmates, and families. Alcatraz has a broad history from first being established as a fort during the civil war, a prison from 1859-1963, occupied to make a political statement for Native Americans, and now an ecological preserve. It is amazing to go inside the prison and hear stories from an array of people who worked there before it closed as a prison. There was also a unique exhibit on the island titled “Portraits of Resilience: Children of Incarcerated Parents” that brings to the forefront the impact of incarceration on families today. The NAACP reports that there are more than 2 million people in prisons. Criminal justice is a critical topic in education that plays a role in teaching history and literature. Books like Jason Reynold’s The Boy in the Black Suit and Wes Moore’s The Other Wes Moore paint a different picture from the Al Capone Does my Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko. Whereas the image of the gangster in the 1920s brought a romanticized picture of outlaws, over crowding in jails and racial bias in our prisons today offer a very different image worth exploring.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium – I know so many people who wanted to be marine scientists when they were younger. Monterey Bay Aquarium would be a dream job for many. Where else can you see so many differently kinds of Jelly Fish or Sea Stars in one place? This aquarium is an amazing center that specializes in researching and educating about marine life in order to co exist and sustain our oceans. The educator’s tab on the website offers an abundance of curriculum materials for all grade levels addressing current exhibits.

All around us are amazing cultural centers that promote learning, science, history, and an appreciation for nature around us. You do not have to take a trip to San Francisco to experience all the great resources that abound the city. Online one can take virtual field trips and peek into an ant colony, swim with the sea otters, or be inspired to write a poem about the beauty of the photographs of national landmarks.

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